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Which casino games win the most money for the house?

Updated February 1, 2022 - 6:28 am

When the Nevada Gaming Control Board announced Thursday that the state’s more than 400 largest casinos won more from players in 2021 than in any year in history, it also disclosed which table games and which slot machine denominations won the most for the house.

It’s no surprise that blackjack continues to be the most popular table game in the casino, but the No. 2 game is somewhat of an eye opener: roulette.

Even with new variations of the game that include more double and triple zeroes, roulette’s 424 units statewide collected $428 million, a 103 percent increase over last year. Roulette hold by the casinos was at 19.87 percent.

“Both tables and slots showed a different mix than we have seen in previous years,” said Brendan Bussmann, director of government affairs for Las Vegas-based Global Market Advisors. “This is in part due to preference of the current customer and their enthusiasm for different games and the level of play. One of the biggest increases was on roulette, which could be for a host of reasons including customer preference and new versions of double- and triple-zero playing a role.”

The state’s 1,958 blackjack tables — by far the largest segment of table games — won $1.13 billion from players for the calendar year. That was 75.8 percent more than what casinos won a year ago. Blackjack tables won 14.1 percent of the amount of bets wagered.

The most popular slot machine denomination in 2021 was the penny slot, with 47,822 units across the state. They won a total $3.758 billion from players last year, a 59.7 percent increase over 2020, and those machines held 9.85 percent of the money put into them.

State coffers get boost

The amount of money held either at a table or by the slot is counted as gross gaming revenue for the casino, and that’s the amount that is taxed by the state and funneled to the general fund.

In the first half of the 2021-22 fiscal year, through Wednesday, the state has collected $570.8 million in percentage-fee collections paying for a multitude of state services. Gaming tax collections are up 31.1 percent over the first six months of the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Casinos also pay a per-unit fee as part of their licensing.

The Control Board monitors gaming win on table games and slot machines by market. Statewide, win on all slots was up 0.25 percent and on tables, up 0.65 percent. The slot win percentage has decreased only three times in the past 25 years.

So, if you’re a believer that slot machines are getting a little “tighter,” you’d be right, although with such a low percentage increase and the high volume of slot revenue, the change should be imperceptible to the average player.

There was a little movement the other direction on some games in markets in Southern Nevada.

Slot win was down 0.17 percent in Laughlin. Table game win percentage was down 0.34 percent in downtown Las Vegas and down 0.44 percent in North Las Vegas. The biggest year-over-year change occurred in Mesquite, where table win in that market was up 1.31 percent.

Back to the slot denominations and table games. So given the numbers, what games should you consider playing to potentially get the biggest bang for your buck?

The lowest casino win percentage among slot machine denominations — and thus the highest win percentage for players — is for nickel slots. Casinos collected 5.31 percent of the money that went into the machines with $42.4 million brought in from 1,035 nickel slot machines statewide.

Other good options are $5 slots, which casinos kept 5.48 percent of coin in, and $25 slots, 5.71 percent. There are just 721 $5 slots statewide and 174 of the $25 denomination.

The worst bet by the numbers was the earlier noted penny slots with 9.85 percent hold and the popular quarter slots, from which casinos kept 8.04 percent from the 3,568 units statewide.

At tables and other games, casinos would love for you to play 3-card poker where casinos held 31.53 percent of the amount wagered. The state’s casinos won $106.8 million on 174 3-card poker units statewide.

What might be the best bet for the player? The good, old sportsbook, where casinos kept 5.46 percent of money wagered in 2021. The state’s books won $445.1 million from the 176 places in operation. Sports betting revenue was up 69.4 percent over the previous year.

Craps, a game generally viewed as having a better player edge than most other table games, won $407.7 million on 319 tables, an increase of 54.4 percent over last year. The casino win percentage was 15.37 percent for the year.

The future outlook is bright, Bussmann said.

“This record year shows that strength of Nevada as a gaming state and a destination,” he said. “While we are still not back to 2019 in many aspects, gaming had a roaring year of success in 2021.”

The strong results show that the Strip and downtown Las Vegas have potential for still more upside, Bussmann said, noting business and international customers have yet to return.

“While there should be some caution as economic forces continue to put potential headwinds on gaming revenue, there is still room for growth as these segments have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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